We've all been in this situation.
You discover you have strong feelings for someone, you get swept up in the emotion and you suddenly think it's time to blurt out those three words.
You know you want the other person to say them, too.
But just because you want to say them, that doesn't mean you should.
Before you blurt out something too early in a relationship for the wrong reasons — or with the wrong motives — read on to see if you're on the right path.
So, you met someone new and clicked with him or her.
It's exciting when you're both together.
You constantly find yourself thinking about him or her when you're apart.
But is it love, or is it just lust and infatuation?
Well, for starters, the emotion you're probably experiencing isn't actually real love.
M. Scott Peck, author of "The Road Less Traveled," defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
Falling in love, however, is more like a sex-linked, erotic experience.
It is a false perception of reality, an illusion.
This romantic love (or honeymoon period) will eventually end in any relationship, even if the relationship blossoms into real love and continues.
The "in love" feeling will dissolve and give way to the realization that an imperfect person and imperfect relationship requires work.
This work is the real love.
We can't force ourselves to fall in love with someone.
When we do, we generally assume it's the real thing, even if we weren't seeking the feeling or didn't have anything in common with the object of our affections.
It's one thing to find someone who likes the same food, hobbies or interior decor.
But, it's another thing entirely to find someone who shares your values, beliefs and morals.
However, the ironic part is, you might immediately rule out a possible life partner simply because he or she doesn't have the same taste in music.
However, having said this, feeling in love is often a precursor to real love.
It can't always be ignored or dismissed.
Now, let's question most people's motives for saying, "I love you," and why this can cause ill feeling, regret and heartache.
Most people say the three magic words for one reason: They are hopeful the other person will say them, too.
We all need to feel validated, especially in romantic relationships.
We are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and exposed, so we want someone else to feel the same way.
The fact is, there are no guarantees in life.
Saying, "I love you" is being willing to put yourself in a hugely vulnerable place, especially considering the fact you may be left hanging.
Therefore, we should only ever tell someone how we feel if we are sure it comes from the heart.
Our words should not be dependent upon the other person's response.
You have to be in a position where you are aware of the possible reaction your words may get.
Be prepared to deal with the consequences.
One thing we should all practice when we feel these emotions is giving them time.
The first time you feel like saying it is never the right time.
We've all been in relationships or known friends in relationships who drop the L-bomb in the first week of dating.
Some of you reading this will be having a "WTF?!" moment right now, and I hear you.
But the fact is, I've been guilty of this myself.
Even now, I often find myself feeling like I want to say, "I love you" within seven months of getting to know someone.
But I rightfully hold myself back from saying it. It's just too soon.
This doesn't mean I can't say other things that actually have more meaning.
You can say things to your SO that let him or her read between the lines.
You can show your SO that he or she is very important to you without putting yourself completely on the line or scaring him or her away.
There are lots of things you can say if you take the time to think about them or write them down.
You can tell your SO you are happy you shared an experience with him or her.
You can tell your SO you're glad he or she is in your life.
There is an infinite number of heartfelt things you can say that will make him or her feel important and pretty amazing, if you just use your imagination.
Perhaps more important than saying things is doing things.
Anyone can say, "I love you" without meaning it.
Many people who have been on the receiving end of this kind of "love" in the past will be wary of hearing words from you that don't match up to your actions.
Sending flowers and buying gifts can be ways to show someone how you feel.
But, too many of these gestures will come across as too strong.
Small, thoughtful gifts are good, as are letters, cards or postcards when you are apart.
Remembering what your significant other said is also a very powerful way to show you care.
Each and every time you say or do something like this, you will get feedback.
Watch the way he or she acts, and make that a more important indicator than what he or she actually says.
It's easier to disguise the way you feel with your words than your actions.
When the time comes for you to finally deliver the three big words, you may not want to be dependent upon his or her response, but you also don't want him or her to run away.
Taking an adequate amount of time to build a trusting bond with someone and to invest in the relationship is the only way to know, deep in your heart, that you love someone.
Like I said earlier, just give it time.